Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Published: 2003

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 389 pages

Setting: the Hawai’ian island of Moloka’o, 1891-1970

Interest: I found a new book club at the local library (let’s hope it doesn’t die within two sessions like all the other book clubs I’ve joined). This was their book for the month.

Summary: Rachel was a child living in Honolulu when she was diagnosed with leprosy. After the disease was confirmed, anyone afflicted with leprosy was banished to the island of Moloka’i. Rachel was only eight when she was sent to the island. She was luck because she had an uncle on the island already who could look after her. All girls under the age of 16 lived with the Sister at Bishop’s Home. Rachel made friends among the girls there and survived to get her own house in town. She makes friends, including Leilani (a transvestite), and marries Kenji, who runs the store in town. Of course the disease continues to take its toll on Rachel and other inhabitants of the island. Rachel lives long enough that researchers are able to put her disease in remission and Rachel reenters society. There she looks up her family, including a daughter she had to give up for adoption.

Final thoughts: This is a sad story, and yet I never found it depressing. Rachel is forcibly removed from her family at age eight, with no real hope of ever seeing them again. Any time she starts to get settle in life with friends and adopted family, the disease kills people. Even so, there was always a thread of hope and making the best of her situation. I had a hard time putting the book down once I started.

So many societal changes occurred during Rachel’s life, and it was even more dramatic in Hawai’i since it started the century as an independent Kingdom and was basically annexed by the U.S. So much history happened within the story (I had to look up a couple of events, including the status of the town now. There’s still some patients left living there) , but you were most interested in how Rachel would cope with the changes in her life. She made many happy memories, even though so many terrible things happened to her and her friends.

There definitely was a lot to talk about in this book, so it made an excellent book club book. Everyone seemed to enjoy the book, although some were more affected by the sadness underlying everything than others.

Title comes from: The location of the leper colony.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 28/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, and an M in my Title Alphabet Challenge

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Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Published: 2012

Genre: YA fantasy graphic novel

Length: 283 pages

Setting: a typical U.S. city, present day

Interest: It was a new graphic novel I saw at my local library. Continue reading

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Rogue Queen by L. Sprague de Camp

Published: 1951

Genre: science fiction

Length: 224 pages

Setting: an exoplanet, far future

Interest: It was a Phoenix Pick book of the month on my Kindle. I was looking for something I’d added fairly recently so it had a better chance of being decent. (I’ve become more selective in the books I add instead of just adding anything that’s free.) Continue reading

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Short Stories by Tina Gower

Title: Twelve Seconds

Published: Writers of the Future Volume 29

Genre: science fiction

Length: 23 pages

Setting: A future Chicago

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Howard works in Digital at the police department, cleaning up siphons from murders and questionable deaths in the hopes that a clear image in the last twelve seconds of someone’s life will provide some evidence for a conviction. His latest siphon is different – it’s shorter than 12 seconds, and there’s no halo at the end. Howard is driven by his autism to find a reason for the difference. He finds six other siphons that lack a halo, and the trail leads him to the doctors that created the siphon method in the first place. One of the doctors is trying to cure people with mental disorders, but instead his experimental methods are killing the patients.

Final thoughts: This was an excellent story. There’s a great little mystery to solve (why don’t these particular siphons have a halo? Siphons always have a halo) told from a unique perspective. Howard has found a job in which he can excel, even with the handicap of his autism. In fact, we see over the course of the story, that his “handicap” allows his to see patterns a neurotypical wouldn’t have noticed. Society has advanced to the point that there is technology to help someone fit into society with a mental disorder, but it doesn’t actually cure the disorders. Gower makes the case that those disorders add something to society.

Title comes from: A typical siphon of the last memory of a person’s life is 12 seconds long.

Title: Today I Am a Nobody

Published: Galaxy’s Edge Magazine: Issue 2, May 2013

Genre: fantasy

Length: 5 pages

Setting: probably somewhere on Earth in the Middle Ages or before

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: The narrator has never fit in with her tribe. A shaman gives her animal magic to transform her into her true self who will find somewhere to fit in. She now literally transforms into a new girl whenever she is threatened. The tanner in town is cute, but after the first day, the narrator can’t get him to be attracted to her. She tries to change back into Rose, but by the time she’s successful, the tanner has gotten old and is no longer interested. The narrator finally just walks down the river, satisfied with being nobody.

Final thoughts: This was another story about not fitting in, although the narrator takes a much more drastic step to try to fit in than Howard. She’s only satisfied when she finally does something for herself, instead of changing to be what someone else wants her to be. It was a fine enough story, but I enjoyed the first one much more.

Title comes from: A phrase the narrator uses as she’s waiting to become Rose again to be attractive to the tanner.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Weekly Wrap-Up: Genetics and Mendel

We finally got to a new topic this month, which means a pile of books from the library. (The librarians can always figure out what our topic for the month is when I get a giant stack of books about one thing.) Last month was literature, so I thought we’d do a little science this month instead. Based on the interest people show in my human biology college class, I thought genetics might be worth checking into.

I had a hard time deciding where to start with genetics – should it be based on size or history? I decided to follow history and start with Gregor Mendel and his pea plants. There are many biographies of Mendel to choose from at many different levels of reading. I found Gregor Mendel: And the Roots of Genetics (Oxford Portraits in Science) by Edward Edelson. At about 100 pages, it’s meant for a more advanced child, especially since all the pictures are in black and white. It doesn’t have the visual appeal that something like the graphic novel Decoding Genes with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Amber J. Keyser. Mendel is mentioned in passing, but it provides more of an overview of genetics than a biography of Mendel.

I had Mr. Curiosity read the chapter about Mendel in It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist: Great Amateurs of Science by John Malone. This book is full of examples of people who made major advances in science without having specific training in that field. Mendel opened the book and the author provided a good overview of Mendel’s research.

And those are the books we used this week. Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-Up.

Weekly-Wrap-Up

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Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

Subtitle: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

Published: 2011

Genre: nonfiction cooking

Length: 263 pages of story, 285 total

Setting: Seattle, present day

Interest: A friend recommended it to me a while back and I’m trying to read some of the older books on my reading list. Continue reading

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Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

Published: 2014

Genre: urban fantasy

Length: 352 pages

Setting: mostly New Orleans, present day

Interest: It’s the second book in the Shambling Guide series that’s available to listen to on iTunes for free until July. Continue reading

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